Smart farmer stories

Farming customers around the world share knowledge on smart farming methods on Rabobank’s Global Farmers platform. This week Dutch Global Farmer Annechien te Have-Mellema shows how lupine peas make her pig farm more sustainable.

Annechien ten Have-Mellema fills many shoes as a crop farmer, pig farmer and a biogas producer. Creating a self-contained, sustainable farm system requires years of planning and doesn’t happen overnight or just during office hours. Annechien explains how her farm is contributing to growing a better world together, and how lupine production is improving soil quality on her farm.

Annechien ten Have-Mellema is a tenth-generation farmer running an energy-neutral farming cycle in Beerta, the Netherlands. Together with her husband and adult children. She has developed a specialty pig breed, called Hamletz.

To feed the pigs, the farm produces crops such as winter wheat, lucerne, sugar beet, maize and lupine. “Our crops feed the pigs, who make manure, which makes the biogas. The leftover ‘digestion’ is used as a fertilizer for the crops. The production of biogas provides enough energy to run the farm and the fertilizer returns to the fields to grow feed again for our sows,” said Annechien. “From the biogas facility, we deliver electricity to the grid. With the warmth leftover from the biogas process we heat our farm, animal housing, our home and we can dry products, such as wheat, solid manure and more.”

Super food – lupine

Annechien’s Hamletz pigs are given a special feed mixture which includes locally grown lupine and wheat. Lupine peas are an up-and-coming ‘super food’ for both animal and human consumption.

Lupine is an alternative animal protein feed that grows and feels at home in the sandy soils of Groningen province. Lupine blooms in late spring and early summer making beautiful fields of blue, white and purple colored blossoms. By August, the lupine has produced a pea pod ready for harvest. “Lupine grows well in cooler climates like in Groningen and across Northern Europe. Soybeans do not grow naturally in the region, so we have to ship in soy from other places. By growing our own lupine, we are less dependent on soy imports from outside the EU. Our lupine is grown here, locally, we have three hectares this year,” says Annechien.

The lupine plant binds nitrogen and improves soil quality

- Annechien ten Have-Mellema

A few years ago, Annechien was approached to help bring lupine production back to the Dutch region. Rich in calcium, magnesium and iron, lupine is a more sustainable crop than soy.

Lupine is soil-friendly and is considered a regional high-quality protein replacement and more environmentally friendly than shipping feed from far away. Annechien comments, “Growing lupine is considered more ‘green’ because the lupine plant binds nitrogen and improves soil quality. It’s rich in calcium, magnesium and iron. On our farm, our own lupine actually returns to the fields through pig manure and fertilizer, completing the cycle on the local level.” “Lupines are adding value to our farm and specialty pigs. The Hamletz pig has a very good CO2 footprint compared to other pigs. But as a stand-alone crop in the region, lupine cultivation is not yet profitable.”

It’s taken many years of experience for Annechien to develop and build the vision for a more sustainable pig farming system that is both environmentally-friendly and pig-friendly. She says, “I see it as my duty to support the needs and wants of the conscientious consumer. To also be farmer-friendly, we have to be both sustainable and profitable. I want other farmers and pork consumers to see the possibilities in what we do and how we do it.”

GlobalFarmers.com is an exclusive worldwide community where Rabobank farmers and experts connect and share knowledge. It’s Rabobank’s initiative to help farmers to be successful rural entrepreneurs in a vastly changing world and to contribute to the global food challenge.